This post topic may seem obvious. After all, who would be so cruel as to dump blame or shame onto someone who is grieving? Unfortunately, it happens. Whether by deliberate intent or unwitting ignorance, it piles deeper distress upon those already experiencing the worst moments of their lives.
Intentional blame is easiest to recognize and, sadly, is most often inflicted by another loved one. (Generosity requires I attribute such meanness to being overwrought by grief.) Intentional shaming and blaming is accusatory and attempts to “punish” the bereaved or the deceased. It can be based in logic or completely without foundation.
“If you’d fed her the right way, she’d have never gotten sick.”
“If he’d been behind the wheel then he’d still be here; we should be burying you instead.”
“She’d have never gotten sick if you hadn’t taken that job.”
“He was healthy as a horse until he met you.”
“She’d still be with us if she hadn’t been such a lousy housekeeper.”
Unwitting or accidental blame is harder to recognize and, for the most part, is ascribed by well-meaning but thoughtless friends, coworkers, and family. It usually takes the shape of questions meant to better inform the would-be comforter. It can also be stated in misguided attempts to show “understanding.”
“Why didn’t you take him to the doctor at the first sign of trouble?” (Implies: if you had taken him then, he’d be fine now.)
“How come you sent her to that store that night?” (Implies: if you hadn’t sent her, she’d be fine.)
“Don’t you know CPR? So why’d he die?” (Implies: knowing CPR would have meant he’d survive.)
“If it had been my little one, I’d have found another doctor.” (Implies: mourner “should” have known more/better/different treatment was needed.)
“I’m glad I made my teenager take a defensive driving class.” (Implies: if you’d made yours take the class they’d still be okay.)
Questions and statements such as these only make the bereaved feel worse. By stopping to think of the hidden implications of questions and comments you make to someone whose loved one has died, you can guard against unintentionally inflicting deeper pain.
(For anyone who has already willingly assaulted survivors with accusations, please reconsider. Apologies can mend some wounds, including your own.)